Michael Bailey Lowestoft Town are going to Wembley after booking their place in the final of the FA Vase on May 11. Only 14 months ago, the Suffolk club's financial problems were close to closing the Crown Meadow turnstiles for good, but their miraculous turn-around will reach new heights after the Blues survived Saturday's semi-final second leg at Whitley Bay.
Lowestoft Town are going to Wembley after booking their place in the final of the FA Vase on May 11.
Only 14 months ago, the Suffolk club's financial problems were close to closing the Crown Meadow turnstiles for good, but their miraculous turn-around will reach new heights after the Blues survived Saturday's semi-final second leg at Whitley Bay.
The class of 2008 put in an incredibly resilient performance to send the 300 Trawler Boys who made the trip north, along with the rest of the Town, into wild celebrations.
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In only six weeks time, west London will be turned blue and white for the biggest game in Lowestoft's history at the world's most famous football venue.
“It's just so hard to describe how I'm feeling at the moment,” said Town's joint manager Micky Chapman. “We're going to pack the place out. I know that's a bit of an exaggeration, but there are going to be thousands at Wembley and we're there - Lowestoft Town are walking out and playing football at Wembley, and we can't wait.”
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Town looked as though they were going to blow their four-goal first leg advantage when Whitley rushed into a deserved 3-0 lead within 20 minutes, but Lowestoft gave everything to protect their remaining advantage and were swamped at the final whistle as the Town fans invaded the pitch to celebrate.
“We don't do things the easy way but we showed the spirit within the club today,” added Chapman. “They were disappointed with themselves at half time but they didn't stop believing. The boys knew that we couldn't play any worse than we did first half. Second half we turned that right around and to be honest we were absolutely awesome. Every single person was a hero.”
Meanwhile, fellow manager Ady Gallagher can finally allow himself to dream of walking his side out onto the Wembley turf.
“It hasn't sunk it. I'm trying to visualise it because I've denied myself that opportunity and it'll be fantastic. I can't wait,” said Gallagher. “What an effort; 3-0 down after 20 minutes against a class side, and we knew they were a good side. We never once disrespected them.
“Don't anyone think we took it easy. We were under the cosh, big time. They got an early goal, they spanked in one from 25 yards for the second, got the momentum and then nicked a third.
“But I'm just so proud of the effort of the boys. It was shear guts and determination and they deserve credit for that. No one should think we were lucky to get through because we did our job at home. We got a great result at home and we said that the fourth goal could be crucial, and it proved to be. It was just a massive, massive effort from everyone.”
Midfielder Jamie Godbold, whose goal in the fifth minute of stoppage time at Crown Meadow seven days ago proved decisive, added: “We've been saying all week how crucial that goal was, and we've been saying the game certainly wasn't over - and after 20 minutes we were dead right.
“It was strange. It was like the game hadn't even started and we were 3-0 down. We froze a bit but after that we regrouped, got in at half time still 3-0 down, and in the second half we just couldn't wait for the final whistle.
“Defensively, the second half was how we should've started the game, but there's no point talking about that now - we're on our Wembley.”
There had been suggestions in the Lowestoft camp that Whitley Bay had been disrespectfully short of praise for the Blues' efforts in the first leg. However, Bay manager Ian Chandler said: “We're very disappointed but give Lowestoft their due. They had a 4-0 lead from last week and they deserved that last week.
“We had a good go but it wasn't to be. Lowestoft always had something to cling on to and that was always at the back of my mind. If we'd got the fourth goal I would've been a lot more confident but when someone's got something to hold on to, they don't give it away easily.”